A strong message weakly presented.

LOVE IS LOVE

A heartfelt affirmation of queer love.

A first-person text presents several children, all wearing rainbow-heart T-shirts, grappling with others’ homophobia. It then documents their eventual movement toward pride in their families, simply by talking through their hurts and then arriving at the conclusion that “Love is the same. Wherever you live. Whoever you are. And whomever you love.” Even as the different children talk about being teased for having gay parents (the word “gay” is used as a default or umbrella term, with no instances of words such as “queer,” “lesbian,” “bisexual,” etc.) or feeling otherwise targeted, the illustrations also start to show kites in the distance, first red, then orange, then yellow, and so on. These kites end up forming a heart in rainbow colors in the sky when the various children and their families come together at the end of the book. Before arriving at this point, it’s often quite difficult to follow the shifts between characters, as the illustrations pair the text with diverse children in clearly different locales without indicating that a new child is the speaker. Obviously intending inclusion, the images seem to attempt both universality and specificity at the same time, to frustrating effect. There’s no story to speak of, but the clear message is underscored by extensive backmatter with conversation prompts and further affirmation of queer families and identity.

A strong message weakly presented. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-9397-7513-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little Pickle Press

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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As insubstantial as hot air.

THE WORLD NEEDS WHO YOU WERE MADE TO BE

A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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